Everything, Everywhere, All at Once Is a Wild and Crazy Ride
Topping the 2023 Oscar nominations with 11 nods, Everything, Everywhere, All at Once can be viewed, well, everywhere. Now back in theaters, the film is also streaming on Amazon Prime, Showtime, Apple TV, and several other services. Does where we watch films affect how we react to them? I had that thought after watching this comedy-drama on an airplane. Somehow the chaos going on around me – people talking, carts rattling, babies crying – added to the chaos I was watching on the screen. As the lead actor Michelle Yeoh was tossed between alternate realties, I found myself bouncing – literally as the plane hit turbulence – along with her. I hadn’t read any review beforehand, so when one of the characters began to bash attackers with his fanny pack, I was laughing out loud, annoying the stranger sitting next to me.
If you haven’t seen the film, the plot is ingenious and complicated. Yeoh plays Evelyn Quan Wang, who runs a laundromat someplace in California. She’s facing an IRS audit and is attempting to pull together what she needs, but the constant interruptions from her husband, daughter, and father, make the job that much more difficult. Each family member is upset with Evelyn. Her father doesn’t like the way she’s running the laundromat, while her husband, in a last ditch effort to have Evelyn pay attention to him, is filing for divorce. And, her daughter wants to bring her non-Chinese girlfriend to the family’s Lunar New Year party. Some of the dialogue is in English, the rest in Chinese with subtitles, so paying attention to what’s on the screen is important.
Jamie Lee Curtis (Photo Credit: Allyson Riggs)
The IRS agent, Deirdre, is played by Jamie Lee Curtis in a brilliant performance that has awarded her a first time Oscar nomination. (Hard to believe after all the terrific roles she’s amassed in iconic films including A Fish Called Wanda, Trading Places, True Lies, and, the many Halloween horror films, that this is her first nomination.) In the middle of the IRS meeting, while the family endures Deirdre’s attacks on their finances and bookkeeping, Evelyn’s husband, Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) is taken over by Alpha-Waymond from the Alpha universe. (All the characters in the film have other identities in these alternative universes.) Alpha-Waymond explains to Evelyn that the multiverse is now threatened by Jobu Tupaki, the Alphaverse version of their daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu). The Alpha version of Evelyn pushed the Alpha version of Joy and basically messed up her mind. (A parallel reference to Evelyn’s real life parenting style?) The result? A black hole, explained like an “everything bagel” that can swallow up the multiverse.
Michelle Yeoh (Photo Credit: Allyson Riggs)
OK, I had a hard time following all this, too, and, truth be told, I gave up trying to understand the plot and instead just began to take in the acting and special effects unfolding in every scene. (When Evelyn and the others grew sausage fingers, I just enjoyed the moment.)
The film is up for a best picture Oscar, Yeoh for a best actress, Curtis for best supporting actress, and Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert together for best director, to name a few of the nominations. How will such an idiosyncratic film compete against the other movies which are more mainstream? That remains for be seen. It’s going to be a wild Oscar ride, perhaps in yet another universe!
Top photo: Michelle Yeoh